Bulgaria offers citizenship and material benefits to members of the Gorani community in what some call a throwback to 19th-century policy.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 16/04/12
Bulgaria is offering citizenship to the Gorani communities. [Reuters]
The Gorani, most of whom are Muslim and identify as Macedonians, live in 18 villages in the region of Gora as well as in the adjacent Zhupa and Prespa regions in the Albania-Macedonia-Kosovo border area.
"They [Bulgarian representatives] usually come every few months. They are expected to arrive in Gora next at the beginning of May," Avnija Rahte, president of the Macedonian-Gorani Association, said.
Rahte explained the Bulgarians, accompanied by a lawyer, try to persuade the Gorani of the benefits of Bulgarian citizenship, including potential employment in EU countries as well as free schooling in Sofia and Plovdiv.
All the Gorani need to do is sign documents declaring they have Bulgarian origins and are Bulgarian, he said.
The Bulgarian Constitution provides the option for individuals to acquire Bulgarian citizenship through a "facilitated procedure," established in the country's citizenship act.
The Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, which organises the visits, has featured a 2010 strategic document on its website explaining that the policy aims to unite all Bulgarians in the region and raise the nation's plummeting birth rate.
Over 16,000 Macedonians obtained Bulgarian citizenship last year, along with nearly 2,000 Ukrainians and 1,000 Serbs, but only six Kosovo citizens, according to Agency data.
"Nearly 1,500 inhabitants of Gora, Zhupa and Prespa have obtained Bulgarian citizenship," Gezim Kurti, head of the association Bulgarians in Albania, told SETimes.
Bulgarian scholar Antoinette Primatarova suggested in an article earlier this year that Prime Minister Boyko Borissov is eager to breathe new life into Bismarck's saying the Bulgarians are "Prussians of the Balkans."